Beliefnet
The Queen of My Self

 

I see “Begin Again” as an ideal theme for this season. We have the supreme opportunity now in the autumn of our midlife to begin again. How shall we reinvent our Selves? What new programs, projects and passions are on the horizon for us? Please send me your stories of change, transition, and transformation. Our shared experiences serve to inspire and empower us all.

Thanks.  xxQueen Mama Donna

 

Today is my birthday. I was born on my mother’s birthday. As a child, I was absolutely enchanted by this bit of information. Did I come all wrapped in ribbons, I would ask? Were there balloons? A cake? Did the nurses sing “Happy Birthday To You” to you? And my mother, being of the-glass-is-half-empty-school, would reply that, although I was certainly a lovely present, she could think of several things that she’d rather have been doing on her (pre-Lamaze) birthday.

Most of us cherish a certain notion of entitlement on our birthdays, and often, a stylized celebration fantasy as well. A mythically idealized expectation based on popular practice, historic precedent and personal memory.   As Elizabeth Goudge wrote in Green Dolphin Street,

“Her birthdays were always important to her; for being a born lover of life, she would always keep the day of her entrance intoit as a very great festival indeed.”

Who doesn’t awaken on their birthday with a tingle, a heart-skip of excitement? A trill of a thrill, a nascent throb? The date jumps out at us from newspapers, calendars, mail and memos, and we start the day with a stimulated sense of anticipation, or, for some, perhaps, trepidation. In any case, a heightened awareness of a period of personal significance. Of specialness. Our birthday is the anniversary of our Self, the blessing of the fact of our being.

Every birthday is a rite of passage. A ritual of progression through the stages of the ages. The travel from one state of being, of status, to another has always been held to be fraught with danger. Life is fragile after all, and vulnerable. So care must be taken to ensure a safe crossing for the celebrant. S/he must be surrounded by well-wishers who, with their cheerful salutations, songs and spells of “Happy Birthday!” attempt to please the protective and guiding spirits. The giving of gifts provides an extra surety of safekeeping.

Since the advent of agriculture, special cakes have been offered in religious ceremony. The Persians consecrated sweet honey cakes and placed them on the altars of the Great Goddess in Her many guises. A circular cake topped by a glowing taper was offered by the ancient Greeks to Artemis, the moon, in the fullness of Her monthly birthday. In Japan, too, round rice moon cakes are still offered to Lady Moon at Her birthday on the full Fall Harvest Moon. “Happy cakes” were given as party favors at the night-long Egyptian feasts in honor of all ten-day-old babies. Emperor Hadrian of imperial Rome sent gift cakes to his coterie on his own birthday.

The modern birthday cake was invented by German bakers in the Middle Ages. Not unlike the Goddess cakes, they were ringed by burning candles, “The Light of Life,” each representing a year plus an extra one for luck. These were kept lit all day long in a symbolic guardian circle until the cake was cut and eaten after the evening meal. In Great Britain, birthday cakes, like Twelfth Night cakes, contain small charms, which are mixed into the batter and then baked. When these lucky pieces show up in someone’s slice of cake, they tell the future of the finder: a ring for marriage, a thimble for spinster/bachelorhood, a button for poverty, a coin for prosperity, a seed for fertility.

Tomorrow: Happy Birthday! – Part 2

*****

Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She is the Midlife Midwife™ offering counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity.

 

Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™: http://www.donnahenes.net/queen/consult.shtml

http://www.thequeenofmyself.com

 

***

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I see “Begin Again” as an ideal theme for this season. We have the supreme opportunity now in the autumn of our midlife to begin again. How shall we reinvent our Selves? What new programs, projects and passions are on the horizon for us? Please send me your stories of change, transition, and transformation. Our shared experiences serve to inspire and empower us all.

 

Thanks. xxQueen Mama Donna

 

 

Candles, lanterns, lamps and torches are employed universally to light the way along the spirit path of progress. In another domestic adaptation of the Epiphany tradition, many families keep a tall twelve-year candle for each child. This is first lit at the christening, then burnt bit by bit, year after year, until the child attains adulthood at the age of thirteen. A candle, of course, represents life; a birthday candle, our life — the spark, the heat, the glow, the movement, the melt down, the ultimate burnout. We kindle a ceremonial fire so that the propitiatory power of our prayers can rise on the smoke, fly on the flames, find its way up to heaven. We make a wish and bless it with a blow of our life’s breath, which, one day, too, will be extinguished.

Somehow, especially as we grow older, cake and low-fat frozen yogurt are no longer the fulfilling richness we seek in our birthday celebrations. A party doesn’t feed us, the day doesn’t quite seem to satisfy us the way it used to. The promise implicit in the pomp is gone. We have seen what we have seen. We know what we know. We are left, more and more, with a subtle sense of disappointment and an unsettling reminder of the ever-swifter passage of time. Another day older and deeper in debt.

 

A birthday, then, becomes a time line, a life line, a party line, a deadline. An assessment of our annual bottom line. Research shows that there is a definite “birthday effect” on the health of a given group. The incidence of heart attacks increases significantly for both men and women during the week before and after their birthdays. This might be equally explained, I suppose, by the added emotional/physical stress of ambivalent anticipation and ultimate let down and over-the-top partying.

 

Our birthday is our own personal new year. It is an annual reunion with ourselves, and attendance is required. It is a periodic opportunity to take serious personal stock. “How am I doing?,” as old Ed Koch, former mayor of New York City, would always ask.  What have I learned? And what can I just not get through my thick skull?  Like any new beginning, our birthday is an ideal time to sharpen our focus, realign our perspective and rededicate ourselves to living the very best life we can.

 

“The return of my birthday, if I remember it, fills me with thoughts which it seems to be the general care of humanity to escape,” wrote James Boswell in The Life of Samuel Johnson. Since the early 1980’s, I have kept a birthday book. I usually retreat to some extent and fast to some degree during the week or so before my birthday, during which time I devote myself entirely to the recording of the past year. Processing my impressions and my lessons. Plotting my progress. Pondering my problems. Planning my goals. Ultimate good girl that she was, Princess Victoria of Great Britain wrote in her journal on her eighteenth birthday,

“How  old! and yet how far I am from being what should be….

I shall from this day take the firm resolution to study…. to keep my attention always well fixed on whatever I am about, and strive everyday to become less trifling and more fit for what, if Heaven wils (sic) it, I’m someday to become!”

*****

Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She is the Midlife Midwife™ offering counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity.

Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™: http://www.donnahenes.net/queen/consult.shtml

***

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just came across this touching testament to the power of one person’s devotion to peace. It is the perfect wrap up for this week’s posts about 9/11.There IS still a chance for peace!

 

To Make A Difference

By SisterJoan Chittister 

For a period of time, I drove from Cleveland to Erie on a fairly regular basis, a distance of about 100 miles. Time after time, I put the car on automatic pilot and headed for home, nothing but straight road between me and the priory.

Except for one thing. Every time I made the trip, I began to notice, there was one solitary man standing back off the roadside at the edge of a ragged corn field, a flag in his hand, a sign by his side, one small camp chair open and planted behind him. Trip after trip. Week after week. In cold rain and sleet, in hot sun and wind, there he stood, alone and totally silent. Keeping watch, eloquently silent.

One day, I simply turned the car around and went back, drove down the berm slowly, and stopped. He wore army fatigues, and, on the broomstick standard that he held in one hand while he waved with the other, he flew a homemade flag with a peace sign on it. “Give peace a chance,” the sandwich board sign propped up by the chair read. He himself, I realized as I got closer, had braces on his legs.

He was just one man with one small peace sign standing on an empty road waving a homemade flagpole back and forth at every car that passed.

In my mind, that single man, a veteran I presume, goes on waving every day of my life. It was his persistence, his dogged refusal to give up waving, his single-minded commitment to changing my mind that got me.

When all is said and done, “persistence” is the antidote to powerlessness. When I refuse to go on waving, when I pick myself up and leave the field, I have given in. I have surrendered my soul to forces whose only argument is that doing what is wrong is better than doing something else. But it is not the glory of the Chinese government and its use of repression to maintain order that the world remembers —and applauds— after the rout at Tiananmen Square. It is the sight of one young man standing in front of a tank.

To be the last person on earth opposed to the dropping of a nuclear bomb on innocent people is to preserve more of what it means to be human than can possibly be preserved by using the bomb. It may be the last sign, the most powerful sign, the only regenerating sign the world ever sees, of the valor, the rationality, of which a human being is capable.

In the end, the sight of goodness undeterred has more power than all the forces on earth arrayed against it.

*****

Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She is the Midlife Midwife™ offering counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity.

Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™: http://www.donnahenes.net/queen/consult.shtml

***

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I see “Begin Again” as an ideal theme for this season. We have the supreme opportunity now in the autumn of our midlife to begin again. How shall we reinvent our Selves? What new programs, projects and passions are on the horizon for us? Please send me your stories of change, transition, and transformation. Our shared experiences serve to inspire and empower us all.

 Thanks.  xxQueen Mama Donna

 

A full week after the blasts, there are still immense clouds of smoke coming from lower Manhattan. I keep looking for the towers that I used to be able to see from my window. I cannot compute that they are not there. Tonight the sky is crystal blue, the buildings are lit with thousands of twinkling lights and back-lit with a billowing mass of white smoke.

 It is breathtakingly (can I say?) beautiful. What happens when so many souls leave their bodies at once? The glow from their combined spirits is electrifying. May it purify our intentions and power our resolve for peace.

 

– September 18, 2001

 

*****

Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She is the Midlife Midwife™ offering counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity.

Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™: http://www.donnahenes.net/queen/consult.shtml

***

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

 

 

I see “Begin Again” as an ideal theme for this season. We have the supreme opportunity now in the autumn of our midlife to begin again. How shall we reinvent our Selves? What new programs, projects and passions are on the horizon for us? Please send me your stories of change, transition, and transformation. Our shared experiences serve to inspire and empower us all.

Thanks.  xxQueen Mama Donna

 

There is an intense white light, an inner glow that now emanates from the people of New York City. We had risen to an unthinkable occasion and we liked ourselves for doing so. We reached out to our neighbors and we found that we liked them, too. And everyone really liked how good it feels to feel good about themselves and each other. People want desperately to do right, to do good, to be good, to live right.

In the hardest of times, we managed to transcend what makes us human and embodied what makes us humane. We saw the putrid smoke of destruction burn clean with the spirit of true communion. We in our beleaguered town have tasted grace. We recognized it for what it is and we cherished living in its beneficence.

So many people have expressed to me their apprehension that as things return to normal, people will lose some of their newfound consciousness of perspective and interdependence. But why go back there? What used to be normal didn’t really pan out all that well, it seems to me. That old normal isn’t nearly good enough for us who are divine and beautiful beings. Our challenge and our joy is to make this miracle of living in caring community be the new normal.

The way I see it, we are at a cross-roads in our evolution. Either we will figure out how to live together on one planet without violence. Or we won’t. We expect this of our kids at school. We expect it in our families and at our jobs.

We are modern dinosaurs and it is up to us whether this meteor storm that we have just suffered will drive us to extinction. As Glen, the copier machine mechanic remarked, “this is like a wake-up call.” Well it is actually more like an air raid siren going off in the middle of the night. Emergency. 911.

I have just been reading Chang and Eng by Darin Strauss about the original Siamese Twins who were, in fact, from Siam. Here were two men, fraternal twins, a double-boy, physically dissimilar and with radically different personalities who lived for 64 years connected to each other at the chest by a 5 inch long band of muscle and cartilage which housed their single stomach.

They married two sisters and had 21 biracial children between them. This in the constrained society of the Victorian American South. These twins managed to make an awkward, untenable situation work because they had to. They couldn’t walk away or hurt the other without suffering that same harm themselves. They learned how to live together because they had no choice.

Can we do less?

*****

Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She is the Midlife Midwife™ offering counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity.

Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™: http://www.donnahenes.net/queen/consult.shtml

***

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

 

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